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Iowa board delays financing for Mason City downtown project

DES MOINES | Mason City will have to wait another month to secure as much as $10 million in state financial assistance toward its downtown renovation project.

A contingent of roughly a dozen city officials, project developers and community supporters traveled to Des Moines for Friday morning’s state economic development board meeting, at which they hoped to receive approval for between $7 million and $10 million in state financial assistance through a reinvestment program.

But after hearing from city officials and developers, the board, citing a need for a few loose ends to be tied up, tabled the matter until next month’s meeting.

The board desires a signed development agreement, a commitment from the bank that will finance the project, and dismissal of the lawsuit between the project developer and the city, board member Chris Murray told the Mason City contingent.

Murray also noted the project has twice changed developers.

“We’ve been at this same spot one other time with you guys,” Murray said. “We have some questions because we have two key items (the development agreement and financing commitment) that aren’t completed.”

Mason City seeks up to $10 million in state funding through the Iowa Reinvestment Act to help leverage a $38 million downtown renovation plan that includes the hotel, a conference center in The Music Man Square, a performing arts pavilion and an ice arena and multipurpose center.

The board gave a preliminary award of $7 million for the project, which could ultimately receive up to $10 million after more state funds became available when another project shuttered.

Outgoing mayor Eric Bookmeyer and a representative for the project developer said they are confident the board’s requests can be fulfilled before its January meeting, at which time - they hope - the project would get final approval.

“The two requests that they’re asking for are completely reasonable,” Bookmeyer said. “I have no reason to believe that they won’t be (done by next month).”

The development agreement will receive a public hearing on Dec. 28, after which Bookmeyer can sign it. He said it likely will be one of his last official acts.

Steve Noto, president of HPI Hospitality which operates the Historic Park Inn, spoke on behalf of G8, the developer for the downtown hotel. He said once the development agreement is signed, the lawsuit will be released.

“I’m very confident we’re going to get this deal done for Mason City,” Noto said.

Through the delays and hurdles, the city has spent more than $700,000 on the project so far.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City firefighters respond to a fire call at Lukes Central Machine & Parts on Friday in Mason City.

Mason City machine shop owner hopes to re-open soon after Friday's fire (with photos, live video)

MASON CITY | Employees of a machine shop in downtown Mason City were able to evacuate safely when a fire broke out Friday afternoon, according to the owner.

"Everybody got out," said Ron Lukes, who owns Lukes Central Machine & Parts.

The fire was reported about 12:40 p.m. at the shop, 360 N. Delaware Ave.

Lukes was standing in the parking lot south of the building, watching smoke billow out of an upstairs window while firefighters checked for hot spots and cut into siding and a charred garage door on the north side of the building.

Photos: Lukes Central Machine Fire

"I think it's not going to be as bad as it looks," Lukes said of the damage at his shop, which opened at its downtown location in 2001.

He believes the fire started when a fuel canister somehow caught fire.

"We were changing a fuel pump in a Suburban," Lukes said. "Somehow the fuel ignited."

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City firefighters respond to a fire call at Lukes Central Machine & Parts on Friday in Mason City.

He said they had removed the fuel from the vehicle and had it in a canister when it caught fire. No one was in the room when the fire began, according to Lukes.

Though it was windy and temperatures were hovering around freezing, Lukes, who was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, continued to chat with bystanders outside, claiming he was still warm from the fire.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City firefighters respond to a fire call at Lukes Central Machine & Parts on Friday in Mason City.

Lukes remembers the explosion and fire that destroyed Charlie's Auto Repair on South Federal Avenue in 2016. He is optimistic about rebounding from this fire.

"I hope we'll be back at work next week," Lukes said.

Algona woman requests help from Cheer Fund to make nephew smile (with Dec. 15 donations)

An Algona woman who is struggling financially has turned to the Cheer Fund to assist her in brightening her 4-year-old nephew’s Christmas.

The woman, who didn’t provide her age, said it’s been a “very long and hard year.”

“I’m not asking for a lot, just something to put under the tree from me and Santa,” she wrote in her application. “Please help me and make him smile.”

Since the Cheer Fund began in 1927, more than $3 million has been raised.

This year’s goal is $125,000.

The Christmas Cheer Fund was established by Globe Gazette Publisher Lee Loomis in 1927 so every child could have a present on Christmas morning. In the years since it has come to mean a little help at Christmastime to people of all ages.

Donations may be dropped off or mailed to the Globe Gazette office, 300 N. Washington Ave., Mason City, IA 50402-0271.

Any remaining funds not distributed for the holidays will be given to local nonprofits. The Christmas Cheer Fund balance will return to $100 in January to maintain the checking account.

Those in need can apply for help from the Cheer Fund at the Globe Gazette between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Applicants must use the 2017 request form. Applications will close at noon Dec. 21.

Cheer Fund donations: Friday, Dec. 15


TO-DATE TOTAL: $67,702.42

TO REACH GOAL: $57,297.58

JoAnne Tierney, in memory of John, $100

Doug and Marcia Grabinski, in memory of our parents Wencil and Roberta Small and Bob and Kay Grabinski, $100

Vivian McEldoon, in memory of Bob McEldoon, $20

Larry and Donna Gray, in loving memory of Harold and Ruth Gray, Tom and Myrtle Helling and Denny Gray, $50

Marilyn Meyer, in memory of my husband Jim and our parents, $25

Sunshine Circle, $25

Lenard and Carol Hamand, in memory of Brian K. Hamand, $23

Lenard and Carol Hamand, $50

Gloria Kirschbaum, $100

Mason and Kelli Harms, in memory of our fathers Larry W. Lovick and Michael J. Harms, $50

Brad and Wendy Janson, $500

Peggy Halsne, in memory of my husband Larry, $25

The Crabby Pizza Maker – Merry Christmas, $20

Anonymous, was grateful to receive help when I needed it, now wish to help someone else, $25

Anonymous, for departed family and friends, $300

Family, in memory of Dick and Dolores Avise, $100

Joe and Julie Sanchez, $25

Tom and Luci — Merry Christmas, $25

The "Cuda Guy," in memory of Ken and Kathy Hackbart, $25

Patrick and Mary Grant, in memory of our parents, $100

Gaye Kehm, in memory of Ted, Joseph, Ryan and Ron, $100

Dutch, in memory of my wonderful parents Alice and Victor Cookman, $20

Dutch and family, in memory of husband and father Gary Hepperly — missing you, $20

Dutch, in memory of in-laws Lyle and Lucille Hepperly, Sandy, Ron, Sarah and Kevin Hepperly, $20

In loving memory of the greatest grandma ever LaVonne (Hoffman) Martin, $10

Daughters of Union Veterans, $25

Tom Waddingham, in memory of my wife Janice, $50

Roger and Rita, in memory of our loved ones, $20

Janice Dorenkamp, in memory of my husband Richard, $25

Janice Dorenkamp, in memory of our parents, $25

Steve and BJ Epperly, in memory of all our veterans, $50

Jerry and Sally Kunz, in memory of deceased loved ones, $50

Robert and Gail Kuefler, $25

Myron and Jayne Lupkes, $100

Anonymous, in memory of Marian Johnson and our parents, $50

Russ and Mary Imoehl, in memory of our family, $100

Sandy and Verne Brunsen, in memory of Buffington and Brunsen loved ones, $50

His wife Irene Nelson, in memory of Neal Nelson, $50

Lois Thompto, in memory of loved ones, $100

George and Janna Apostolopoulos, $500

Wesley United Methodist Women, $100

Beverly Schabacker, in loving memory of Konrad and Steve, $100

Neal and Rose Santee, in memory of our parents and other family members we miss so much, $25

Atlas Properties, in memory of Tom, Tula and Tom Jr Zanios, Bill and June Smythe and Christina Kamant, $100

Gracie, Geneva, Dakota, Lily and Zoey, in memory of our sister and little princess Isabella, $300

The MacNider family, in memory of Dorothy Westly, $500

Margaret McLaughlin, $100

Jennifer and Russell Overbeck, $50

Jim and Terry, in memory of our grandson Nathan Sills, $50

June Fredrickson, in memory of my husband Kneeland, three sisters and five brothers, $100

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Prosecutor: Motion filed opposing closed sentencing for former Mason City day care operator

MASON CITY | The Iowa Attorney General's office has filed a motion resisting Tawny Symonds' request to have her sentencing hearing closed next month.

Scott Brown, an assistant attorney general, told the Globe Gazette by phone Friday morning that he hoped to file that motion later Friday or Monday. According to court documents, it was filed early Friday afternoon.

Scott Brown resistance to closed sentencing hearing

He said he has recently been assigned to the case because Denise Timmins, another assistant attorney general, was reassigned to another case in central Iowa on a speedy trial request.

"Someone had to pick it up," Brown said. "It had nothing to do with anyone's ability ... it was just a scheduling thing."

Brown said he could not comment on how the plea agreement was reached, citing that Symonds still has to be sentenced next month.

He did, however, cite two prior cases in Iowa as reason for why the state would be resisting the motion to close the sentencing hearing.

In one of those cases, State v. Farnum, the Iowa Supreme Court determined that Orley Ivan Farnum could not close his trial to the public. Farnum had appealed after he had been found guilty of three counts of felony second-degree sexual abuse, among other charges.

"The justification for denying access to a trial must be a weighty one ... The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motion to exclude spectators from the courtroom and close the trial," the court's opinion read. 

A ruling has not been issued in regards to whether the hearing will be closed. If Symonds' hearing were to be closed, her sentence would still be public record. 

Symonds, 31, of Charles City, was initially charged with assault, felony second-degree sex abuse and child endangerment in December of last year, for allegedly victimizing a child at her home-run day care in Mason City.

Earlier this week, she submitted an Alford plea to the child endangerment charge. The court agreed to drop the two more serious charges, causing an uproar on social media.

According to court documents, the former prosecutor in the case, Assistant Cerro Gordo County Attorney Gina Jorgensen, withdrew Dec. 4. Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen replaced her.

Jorgensen submitted a letter of resignation to Dalen on Nov. 21, and her last day of work was Dec. 5. Symonds submitted her Alford plea Dec. 11.

Symonds' sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 28, 2018, at the Cerro Gordo County Courthouse.